The barns may be closed and the grandstands quiet, but the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida is far from idle. Almost as soon as the last polo pony galloped off the field in late April, the grounds crew shifted into offseason mode: an eight-month process of field repair, grounds maintenance and facility upgrades to prepare IPC for an even more spectacular 2016 season. The IPC hosts the annual U.S. Open Polo Championship and other high goal tournaments that attract the sport’s top players and teams from Argentina, England and other international hotbeds of polo.
“It’s an honour to take care of the fields for these guys,” says Ray Mooney, director of facilities at IPC. “To see all our hard work right up front and have the top players in the world appreciate the fields, it feels really good.”
Few realize what goes on behind the scenes to make IPC the showplace it is. The equipment and technological requirements needed to operate the facility (which Mooney likened to maintaining an 18-hole golf course) are extensive, requiring a three-to four-year development plan. Mooney supervises a 20-person groundskeeping staff, including a mechanic, and contracts a soil expert and a laboratory to analyze soil samples, determine nutrient content and develop a custom fertilizer.
Field repairs, particularly after the intensity of the high goal season, are no easy task. The limited sunlight and cooler temperatures during the winter months prevent the sensitive Bermuda grass from growing. So as soon as the season ends, nine polo fields – covering over 150 acres – must be aerated before the rainy season starts in July to allow for significant root growth.
Ray Mooney: “For us, summer is the time to keep up with everything. As soon as the season ends we’re out on the field mowing, aerating, making repairs.” The fields are only the beginning, he adds. “We have thousands of light bulbs in the facility, hundreds of sprinklers, 40 AC units, miles of fencing and acres of landscaping that we look at during the offseason.”
While his responsibilities are never-ending, often entailing 12- to 14-hour workdays during polo season, Mooney’s work is clearly a labour of love. Next season will mark his 10th year at IPC, and he takes pride in his team’s efforts to make the fields look and play their absolute best.
This summer one of his major projects is overseeing an extensive remodelling plan for fieldside seating on what is known as “field one” – the magnificent front lawn that hosts Sunday’s featured matches and wows visitors as they enter the IPC grounds.
While Mooney’s primary focus is to ensure that all aspects of the facility are primed to run smoothly for the 2016 polo season, he and his crew also attend to the needs of the club’s other events. IPC constantly strives to remain an integral part of the greater Wellington community, hosting events such as weddings, lacrosse games and AYSO soccer tournaments.
John Wash, president of club operations: “We had a stellar season in 2015 and we are not missing a beat to prepare for another hallmark season of high goal polo at International Polo Club Palm Beach.”
2016 Sunday Polo Schedule:
3rd January 2016: Herbie Pennell Cup Final
10-24 January 2016: Joe Barry Cup
31st January to 21st February 2016: Ylvisaker Cup
28th February to 6th March 2016: C.V. Whitney Cup
13-27 March 2016: Gold Cup
3-24 April 2016: 112th U.S. Open
For more information please visit www.internationalpoloclub.com